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International Journal of Engineering and Technology Volume 3 No. 7, July, 2013

Natural Gas Plant

Akpa, Jackson Gunorubon1, Igbagara, Princewill W2.

1

Department of Chemical/Petrochemical Engineering

Rivers State University of Science and Technology,

Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria

2

Department of Chemical Engineering

University of Uyo, Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State, Nigeria

ABSTRACT

Mathematical models for the prediction of water content, gas and solvent temperatures of the absorber of a natural gas glycol

dehydration facility were developed. The models developed contain contributions from bulk and diffusion flows, however

only the effect of diffusion on the process occurring in the absorber was studied. The developed models were second order

partial differential equations. The Laplace transform technique was applied to obtain analytical solutions of the model

equations. The models were validated using the plant data from an SPDC TEG unit in Gbaran Ubie, Bayelsa State. The

results showed a reasonable agreement between the model predictions and industrial plant data. The model predicted the

amount of water in the gas stream at the end of the absorption process very accurately with a deviation of 0%., the gas and

solvent temperatures with deviations of 1.584% and 2.844% respectively. These results show that diffusion alone can be use

to accurately model the absorption process. The effects of certain process variables such as residence time, gas inlet water

content, mass and thermal Diffusivities of the gas on the performance of the absorber was studied

Keywords: modeling, simulation, absorption unit, dehydration, natural gas, water content, Triethylene glycol.

NOMENCLATURE

CAg Concentration of water vapour in the gas stream, mol/m3

DA Mass diffusivity of water vapour, m2/s

KG Thermal diffusivity of TEG, m2/s

KL Thermal conductivity of TEG, KW/m2K

KT Thermal diffusivity of water vapour, m2/s

Mi Molar mass of component i, kg/kmol

s Laplace transforms variable

t Residence time, s.

Tg Gas temperature, °C

TL Liquid (TEG) temperature, °C

V1 Molar volume of water vapour, m3/kmol

Vg Gas velocity, m/s

2 Solvent association parameter for TEG

xA Water content, weight %

yA Water content, mole %, mole fraction or lb H2O/MMscf

yA Water content in the Laplace domain

z Packing height, m

μ2 Viscosity of TEG, Pa.sec

π Pi

ρi Density of component i, kg/m3

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International Journal of Engineering and Technology (IJET) – Volume 3 No. 7, July, 2013

Processors Suppliers Association, (2004)). The treatment

Raw natural gas can be obtained from oil wells, gas wells method used is expected to reduce the amount of water in

and condensate wells (Ikoku, 1992). It is “associated gas” the natural gas to levels required for safe gas transmission

when it is obtained from oil wells and can exist separate by pipelines and that do not cause any damage to

from the crude oil (as free gas) or dissolved in the oil (as equipment.

dissolved gas); it is “non-associated gas” when obtained To achieve this, the dehydration unit or plant has to be

from gas or condensate wells; in this form it is found with properly designed. Modeling and simulation of the

little or no crude oil (Guo and Ghalambork, 2005). absorber gives insight into the performance of the

Natural gas is composed almost entirely of methane. absorber at varying operating conditions and provides

However, whatever its source, natural gas commonly sufficient data required for proper design. Modeling of the

exists in a mixture with other hydrocarbons, principally absorber could be performed via a thermodynamic or

ethane, propane, butane, and pentanes. In addition, raw fundamental model.

natural gas also contains water vapor, hydrogen sulphide,

carbon dioxide, helium, nitrogen and other trace Thermodynamic models involve the selection of a suitable

compounds ( Spieight, 2007). thermodynamic model and software simulator while

fundamental models involve the use of conservation

Natural gas from the well has to be transported via principles to develop mathematical equations of the

pipelines to where it is processed and to end users or process. Works on thermodynamic models abound

buyers. Natural gas to be transported by pipelines or (Kazemi and Hamidi, (2011), Peyghambarzadeh and

processed, must meet certain specifications. Such Jafarpour (2006)); where the thermodynamic behavior of

specifications include delivery pressure, rate, temperature, the system (TEG-Water) were represented by means of

allowable concentrations of contaminants such as carbon the Peng and Robinson equation of state or the cubic

dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S), cleanliness equation of state while software simulators commonly

(allowable solid content), minimum heating value and used includes Aspen-Hysys, Chemcad and Pro II.

maximum water content (water dew point) (Kazemi and Thermodynamic modelling of the TEG-water system is

Hamidi, 2011) . still being reported (Kazemi and Hamidi, 2011) to be

rather inaccurate.

Water vapour is the most common undesirable impurity

found in natural gas and is usually present in Fundamental models are derived from mass, energy and

concentrations in the range of 400-600 lbH20/MMSCF of momentum balances of the process, these abound for

gas (Ikoku, 1992). In the course of transmission and similar systems with vary complexities; Gomez et al.,

processing, change in temperature and pressure of the (2003) modeled only bulk flow contribution while Ahmed

natural gas occur. These changes in temperature and et al., (2007) and John, (2009) modeled bulk and diffusion

pressure condense the natural gas vapor altering its contributions. The contribution of the diffusion term to

physical state from gas to liquid and or liquid to solid. the absorption process and the efficiency of the absorber

These changes in state result in diverse problems for the have not been investigated. The effects of diffusion on the

transmission lines and processing facilities such as mathematical models for gas absorption are therefore

plugging of transmission lines (pipelines) and equipment investigated in this work.

such as valves by hydrates formed by the physical

combination of water and natural gas/molecules of 2. PROCESS DESCRIPTION

hydrocarbon, corrosion by acidic solutions formed by the

dissolution of water in hydrogen sulphide and or carbon Figure 1(a) shows a simplified TEG absorber with the

dioxide contained in natural gas, low flow efficiency and inflow and outflow streams, while in Figure 1(b), an

corrosion due to slugging flow conditions by liquid water elemental packed height is shown, with its associated

in natural gas and decrease in the heating value due to the inflow and outflow streams.

water content in the natural gas. To avoid these problems

water vapor in the natural gas must be reduced to

acceptable industrial levels typically in the range of 4 to 7

lb per MMSCF (Ikoku, 1992 and GPSA, 2004). Hence

natural gas treatment is essential.

adsorption (Kohl and Riesenfeld, 1974), absorption

(Campbell et al., 1982), membrane process (Shell, 1982.),

methanol process (Minkkinen, 1992.) and refrigeration

(Kindnay and Parish, 2006). Amongst these methods

absorption using liquid solvent (triethylene glycol TEG)

Figure 1(a): Absorber

as absorbent remains the most popular (Kindnay and

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International Journal of Engineering and Technology (IJET) – Volume 3 No. 7, July, 2013

Secondary heat effects (heat losses and heat of mixing)

are negligible, there is no reaction occurring, hence the

reaction term is not considered, the effect of change in

total flow rate in the column is ignored, and an average

constant value is assumed (McCabe et al., 2005), Since

the water vapour is the only diffusing component, the

diffusion term was not considered for the liquid phase.

The diffusion term is accounted for using the Flicks’ law.

The glycol loses some amount of heat (Q) to the gas phase

by conduction which will be accounted for by Fourier’s

law. Plug flow conditions prevail.

MATERIAL BALANCE

Figure 1 (b): Balance on Element Z

With these assumptions water vapor component mole

In Figure 1(a), G is the molar flow rate of the gas stream, balance and energy balance (for the gas and liquid phases)

y0 its initial water content, CAog, the inlet water vapor for a differential element of the absorber as shown in

concentration, G, y and CAG are respectively the dry gas Figure 1b results in the following equations:

parameters. For the TEG stream, L, x0 and CA0L represent

the inlet flow rate, initial water content and water

concentration respectively, similarly, L, x and C AL are (1)

their respective rich TEG parameters. Fig. 1(b) shows a

material balance on the elemental packing height (ΔZ). Where Vg is the gas velocity in m/s

The component balance for component A (water vapor) is

taken across the elemental packing height (ΔZ). Energy Balance for Gas Phase

A typical TEG-dehydration process can be divided into

two major parts, gas dehydration and solvent (triethylene Equation (2) is simplified to give:

glycol, TEG) regeneration. In the dehydration, water is

removed from the gas using TEG and in the regeneration,

water is removed from the solvent (TEG). Natural gas (3)

enters the unit at the bottom of the absorber tower and

rises through the tower were it intimately contacts the Energy Balance for Liquid Phase

TEG solution flowing from the top of the absorber

downward across the trays or structured packing. Through

this contact, the gas gives up its water vapor to the TEG. (4)

The water laden TEG is circulated in a closed system,

where the water is boiled from the TEG. The regenerated Where KG, KT are the thermal diffusivity of the liquid and

TEG is then re-circulated to the contacting tower. water vapor, Cpg and Cpl are the specific heat of the water

3. METHODOLOGY vapor in the gas stream and liquid stream, Tog and Tg are

3.1 MODEL DEVELOPMENT the inlet and outlet temperatures of the gas stream, A is

the cross-sectional area of the packed section, T L is the

Mathematical models that could predict the performance temperature of the liquid stream, CAg is the concentration

of the absorber were developed using the principle of of water vapor in the gas stream.

conservation of mass and energy. The models would

predict the amount of water vapor removed from the gas Neglecting the contribution from bulk flow, the model

stream and the temperature progression along the packing equations for adsorption by diffusion only with the

height of the absorber for the gas and liquid (TEG) appropriate boundary conditions are as follows:

phases. Gas water content:

3.2 Model Assumptions

(5)

The following assumptions were made in the development

of the model equations:

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International Journal of Engineering and Technology (IJET) – Volume 3 No. 7, July, 2013

(15) gives:

(7)

(17)

Gas Temperature progression:

(9) (18)

According to Stephenson (1986), to obtain a bounded

TEG Temperature progression: solution for y A ( z, t ) , y A ( z, s) should be bounded.

Accordingly, the constant A in equation (18) is taken to

(11) be zero and substituting the initial condition, equation (7);

the solution of equation (18) is:

(12)

(19)

(13)

Equation (19) is inverted to the time domain to yield:

4. SOLUTION TECHNIQUE OF MODEL

EQUATION (20)

The model equations developed were 2nd order partial

differential equations. The transform method which Using appropriate series expansion, equation (20) is

reduces a given partial differential equation and its written finally as:

boundary conditions to an ordinary differential equation

by applying the integral transform with respect to one of (21)

the independent variables (Stephenson, 1986), in this case

time (t) was adapted for the solution of the model The same procedure was followed to solve the other

equations. The Laplace transform was used to transform model equations to yield:

the differential term with respect to the independent

variable (t) in the model equations, thus converting the

(22)

equations to 2nd order ordinary differential equations in

the independent variable, z. The resultant 2nd order

differential equations were then solved analytically; the (23)

results being in the s domain were inverted back to the t

domain using inverse Laplace transform and finally given 5. OPERATING PARAMETERS

in a suitable form using appropriate mathematical

manipulations. To use the final model equations of the absorber (eqns.

(21), (22) and (23)) require the determination of certain

Applying this procedure to equation (5); the Laplace constants, physical properties and compositions of natural

transform of eqn. (5) with respect to time gives: gas, water vapor and triethylene glycol. These properties

(14) were determined as follows:

Substituting the boundary condition, equation (6) into 5.1 Mass Diffusivity (DA)

equation (14) gives:

The mass diffusivity of water vapour in triethylene glycol

(TEG) was obtained using equation given by Perry et al

(15)

(1999):

The solution of equation (15) is:

(24)

(16)

where 2 is the solvent viscosity at temperature T in Pa

sec, V1 is the solute molar volume at the normal boiling

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International Journal of Engineering and Technology (IJET) – Volume 3 No. 7, July, 2013

and M2 he solvent molecular weight. Physical Properties of Gas and Glycol (TEG)

5.2 Thermal Diffusivity (KT) The physical properties of the wet gas and glycol were

The thermal diffusivity of water vapor was obtained online obtained from Perry et al (1999) and tabulated as shown

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/thermal_diffusivity. in Table 1.

Property TEG H2O Gas

Molar mass 150.17 18.02 19.83

Molar volume, m3/kmol 0.01813

Mass diffusivity, m2/s 3.80x10-10

Thermal diffusivity, m2/s 2.338x10-5

Density, kg/m3 1125 1000

Solvent Viscosity (Pa sec.) 0.01355515

Data from a Shell Petroleum Development Company gas dehydrating unit at Gbaran Ubie in Bayelsa State are given in Table

2 (SPDC Plant data, 2007).

Table 2: Plant Data showing inlet conditions (SPDC, 2007)

COMPONENT GAS STREAM (Weight %) GLYCOL STREAM (Weight %)

INPUT OUTPUT INPUT OUTPUT

TEG - - 99.51 95.36

H2O 0.17 0.01 0.49 4.64

GAS 99.83 99.99 - -

TOTAL 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00

TEMP 50.00 51.30 55.00 51

Absorber height 0.004m

6. DISCUSSION OF RESULTS stream and temperature of the gas and solvent streams as

predicted by the models developed. The results obtained

6.1 Model Validation were tabulated in Table 3 with the outlet values of these

parameters from the SPDC gas absorption unit in Gbaran

The input data in Table 2 were used in equations (21), Ubie for comparison.

(22) and (23) to obtain the amount of water in the gas

Parameter Plant data Model result % Deviation

Gas water content, mole 0.00011 1.0717x10-14 0

fraction

Gas temperature, °C 51.3 50.4874 1.584

TEG temperature, °C 51 49.5497 2.844

The results showed a reasonable agreement between the of 0%. The results also showed that the models accurately

model predictions and industrial plant data. The model predicted the gas and solvent temperatures with deviations

predicted the amount of water in the gas stream at the end of 1.584% and 2.844% respectively. These trends are

of the absorption process very accurately with a deviation shown in Figures 2 and 3 respectively.

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International Journal of Engineering and Technology (IJET) – Volume 3 No. 7, July, 2013

0.002

water content of gas from bottom of column,

0.0018

0.0016

0.0014

0.0012

yA(z,t)

0.001

0.0008

0.0006

0.0004

0.0002

0

0 0.0005 0.001 0.0015 0.002 0.0025 0.003 0.0035 0.004 0.0045

column height, z ( m)

56

Temperature of stream (OC)

54

53

52

51

50

49

0 0.0005 0.001 0.0015 0.002 0.0025 0.003 0.0035 0.004 0.0045

Column Height (m)

Figure 3: Temperature progression of gas and liquid streams along the Absorber.

The temperature of the gas stream increased gradually and developed were investigated. The effects of varying each

very slightly as the gas flows up the column while that of of these parameters on performance of the absorber are

the solvent decreased as it flows down the column. From presented.

the ideal gas law, as temperature increases, the volume of

a gas also increases; therefore, at higher temperatures, less Effects of Natural Gas Residence Time on the

gas is absorbed due its larger volume. This trend is seen in Absorber Performance (Outlet Water

Figure 2 from the very slow rate of absorption after the

initial high rate as the gas temperature increased slightly. Content of Natural Gas)

6.2 Model Simulation The effects of residence time on the water content of the

gas along the column height are shown in Figure 4 below.

The effects of residence time, gas inlet water content,

mass and thermal Diffusivities of the gas on the models

ISSN: 2049-3444 © 2013 – IJET Publications UK. All rights reserved. 741

International Journal of Engineering and Technology (IJET) – Volume 3 No. 7, July, 2013

100

water content of gas from bottom of column, yA(z,t),

80

t= 20 sec

60 t= 40 sec

lb H₂O/ MMscf gas

t = 60 sec

40 t = 80 sec

t =120 sec

20

0

0 0.0005 0.001 0.0015 0.002 0.0025 0.003 0.0035 0.004 0.0045

column height, z ( m)

There was a reduction in the water content of gas stream Effects of Gas and Solvent Residence Time

as the gas flows along the column height from bottom to on the Gas and Solvent Temperature

top for all residence time considered. However, the lower

the residence time of the gas in the column the lower the The effects of the gas and solvent residence time on the

amount of water in the gas stream at the exit of the gas and solvent outlet temperatures are shown in Figures

column, that is the lower the residence time the higher the 5 and 6 respectively.

rate of absorption of water vapor, the more efficient the

absorber and vice versa.

50.6

t= 20 sec t = 40 sec t = 60sec t = 80 sec t = 120 sec

Temperature of gas stream from bottom of

50.5

50.4

column, Tg(z,t), °C

50.3

50.2

50.1

50

49.9

0 0.0005 0.001 0.0015 0.002 0.0025 0.003 0.0035 0.004 0.0045

column height, z ( m)

Figure 5: Variation of the temperature of the gas stream with residence time

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International Journal of Engineering and Technology (IJET) – Volume 3 No. 7, July, 2013

56

t= 20 sec t= 40 sec t= 60 sec t= 80 sec t= 120 sec

55

column, TL(z,t), °C

54

53

52

51

50

49

0 0.0005 0.001 0.0015 0.002 0.0025 0.003 0.0035 0.004 0.0045

column height, z ( m)

Figure 6: Variation of temperature of solvent (TEG) with residence time

These Figures showed that the temperature of the gas Temperature has also been found to affect solubility

stream increased as the gas flows up the column while (Gomez and Schbib, 2003), as temperature increases the

that of the solvent decreased as the solvent flows down amount of gas that can be absorbed by a liquid decreases.

the column for all residence time considered. The Figures That is, solubility decreases with temperature. This trend

also showed that the outlet temperature of the gas stream the model predicts accurately in Figure 4 as the outlet

decreased while that of the solvent increased with water quantity in the gas stream increased at higher

increase in gas and solvent residence time. residence times indicating a reduction in absorption rate

hence, a reduction of the gas solubility in the solvent as

The residence time is the duration a component (gas or the gas temperature (Figure 3) increase and in Figure 6

solvent) spends in the absorber. Higher residence times where this reduction in gas solubility results in higher

can be achieved by a reduction of the component flow outlet temperatures of the solvent.

rate and vice versa. Reduction of the component flow rate Effect of Mass Diffusivity on Absorber

results in a reduction in the pressure of the column. From Performance (Outlet Gas Water Content)

the ideal gas law, the reduction in column pressure will

result in a decreased gas temperature. Hence the higher The mass diffusivity was varied with respect to the value

the gas residence time the lower the outlet gas calculated for water vapor. The mass diffusivity of water

temperature. At higher residence time less gas and solvent vapor was calculated using equation (24). The effects of

flows into the absorber. The quantity of water from the the mass diffusivity of water vapor on the absorber

gas stream is less hence the amount of water absorbed by performance indicated by the outlet gas water content are

the solvent is also reduced (smaller). This reduced shown in Figure 8.

quantity of water absorbed by the solvent results in higher

temperatures of the solvent.

0.002

0.0018

water content of gas from

bottom of column, yA(z,t)

0.0016 yA(z,t), DA E-

4

0.0014 yA(z,t), DA E-

5

0.0012 yA(z,t), DA E-

6

0.001 yA(z,t), DA E-

0.0008 7

yA(z,t), DA E-

0.0006 8

yA(z,t), DA E-

0.0004 9

0.0002

0

0 0.0005 0.001 0.0015 0.002 0.0025 0.003 0.0035 0.004 0.0045

column height, z ( m)

Fig. 8: Variation of water content of gas at different mass diffusivities at t= 20 seconds

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International Journal of Engineering and Technology (IJET) – Volume 3 No. 7, July, 2013

The mass diffusivity of a material determines the rate at keeping that of TEG constant, the higher the diffusivity of

which a given component is transferred across a TEG with respect to that of water vapor, then the faster

concentration gradient. Water vapor is transferred from the water vapor diffuses into the TEG solvent. This trend

the gas stream to the liquid solvent stream. The observed the developed model predicted accurately as shown in

effect of mass diffusivity on the rate of water vapor Figure 8 where the rate of absorption of water vapor

transfer from the gas stream to the solvent liquid stream is increases as the mass diffusivity decreases (higher

shown in Figure 8. diffusivity of TEG relative to that of water vapor). Mass

diffusivity increases with increasing temperature and

Figure 8 showed that the rate of absorption of water vapor decreases as pressure increases. The pressure of the

(the rate of transfer of water vapor to the triethylene column can be increased by increasing the component

glycol stream) decreases as the gas flows up the column flow rate and vice versa, hence increasing flow rate

for all values of mass diffusivity investigated. Figure 8 decreases the mass diffusivity and vice versa.

also showed that the water content in the gas stream at the

outlet of the absorber reduced as the mass diffusivity was Effect of Thermal Diffusivity on Absorber

reduced (lower values of mass diffusivity). That is, the

rate of absorption of water vapor increases as the mass Performance (Solvent (TEG) Temperature)

diffusivity decreases. At lower values of mass diffusivity

the rate of absorption was higher. The effects of the thermal diffusivity of water vapor on

the absorber performance indicated by the outlet

The higher the diffusivity (of one substance with respect temperature of solvent (Tri ethylene glycol) are shown in

to another), the faster they diffuse into each other Figure 9.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/thermal_diffusivity). That is,

if the mass diffusivity of the water vapor is decreased

60

TL(z,t), °C, KA E-4

TEG temperature from top of column,

50

TL(z,t), °C, KA E-5

TL(z,t), °C

20

TL(z,t), °C, KA E-9

10

TL(z,t), °C, KA E-10

0

0 0.0005 0.001 0.0015 0.002 0.0025 0.003 0.0035 0.004 0.0045

column height, z ( m)

Fig. 9: Variation of temperature of TEG at different thermal diffusivities at t= 20 seconds

Figure 9 showed that the temperature of the solvent triethylene glycol stream as predicted by the model in

(triethylene glycol) decreases down the column at a given Figure 9.

thermal diffusivity. This decrease is faster as the thermal

diffusivity decreases. Figure 9 also showed that the outlet 7. CONCLUSION

temperature of the solvent decreases as the thermal

diffusivity decreases. Thermal diffusivity is the property Mathematical models of the absorber of a glycol

of a material which describes the rate of heat flow through dehydration facility was developed using the principles of

the material. A high thermal diffusivity means a higher conservation of mass and energy. The model predicted the

conductivity compared to heat capacity. This means that water content of natural gas (in mole fraction) across an

the material conducts more heat rather than stores it. absorber column. Similar models were developed for the

Therefore the higher the thermal diffusivity of the gas, the variation of the gas and liquid (TEG) temperatures across

more heat it conducts out which is absorbed by the the packing height of the absorber. The models developed

triethylene glycol stream. Hence an increase in the contain contributions from bulk and diffusion flows. The

thermal diffusivity increases the temperature of the effect of diffusion on the process occurring in the

ISSN: 2049-3444 © 2013 – IJET Publications UK. All rights reserved. 744

International Journal of Engineering and Technology (IJET) – Volume 3 No. 7, July, 2013

absorber was studied in this work. The models were [8] John, N. (2009), Development of a Model for Wet

validated using the plant data from an SPDC TEG unit in Scrubbing of Carbon Dioxide by Chilled Ammonia,

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